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Religious differences discussed

Diversity workshop leaders (from left) Ronit Baras, Sheik Ahmad Abu Ghazaleh, MP Shayne Neumann and Rabbi Zalman Kastel stand together for humanity.
Diversity workshop leaders (from left) Ronit Baras, Sheik Ahmad Abu Ghazaleh, MP Shayne Neumann and Rabbi Zalman Kastel stand together for humanity. Rob Williams

A JEW, a Muslim and a Christian came together to lead discussion in Ipswich yesterday about learning to live with differences of belief.

In the audience were more than 40 educators and community workers – police, school teachers, advocates for refugees, Red Cross and council representatives –who deal daily with religious diversity.

The first “diversity” workshop at Ipswich’s Civic Centre was put on by Together for Humanity, an Australian organisation set up in 2002 to promote understanding and tolerance.

Queensland co-ordinator Ronit Baras said the group organised kids’ camps and Harmony Day activities.

Two programs had been completed in Ipswich schools.

“We need to do something with parents because they’re a big influence on kids,” she said.

“We should have a ‘buddy’ system for refugees and migrants – it works really well in schools.”

Rabbi Zalman Kastel, Together for Humanity’s national director, said participants were urged to cope with what others believed.

“We make people aware that we have some prejudices, and encourage honest questions,” he said.

At the workshop, Islamic College of Brisbane teacher Judy Turner said she was searching for ways to integrate her students into the community.

“We try and teach that they are ‘Australian’ children,” she said.

Workshop host, Member for Blair Shayne Neumann, said the gathering challenged cultural and religious stereotypes.

“I think there’s a need to promote inter-faith understanding,” he said.

Sheik Ahmad Abu Ghazaleh, one of the presenters, said Together for Humanity aimed at “harmonising” communities through their diversity.

The goal of the organisation is to shift a million people away from prejudice towards understanding.

Ms Baras said the organisation had worked with more than 50,000 Australian children.

“At the workshop, we wanted to share the information we have gathered from our work with these kids and pass on what we have done to change their attitude towards cultural diversity,” she said. Ms Baras, author and life coach, has twice been nominated for Australian of the Year.

Among her inspiring articles is one titled “Make This World A Better Place”.